The next couple of days are expected to see mass demonstrations in London. Protesters are planning to descend upon the City (tomorrow) and the G20 meetings (Thursday), marching against everything from bank bailouts to globalization to climate change. There is an undercurrent of tension, however, as some groups are threatening violence, a development which would be unfortunate but hardly unprecedented. Today features a riposte-in-advance from “Bill the Banker”, presenting his side of the argument. Readers jonesing for a dose of Macro Man’s own particular brand of literary styling should check out the newly-minted FAQs. Take it away, Bill….
First of all, let me say that I understand that people are angry, and that I understand why people are angry. The idea that the finance industry reaps virtually all the rewards during the good times but socializes the risks in the downturns is not one that sits well with the public, for obvious reasons. I also support the democratic right to freedom of assembly, which was used to such effect by leaders such as Gandhi and King.
However, what people need to understand is that most of us in the City are angry, too. Contrary to the caricature of “greedy bankers” who play roulette with the public’s wealth and pensions, most of us are honest, hard-working, and do the best job that we can. And probably to a greater degree than the public, many of us have seen our life savings evaporate during this crisis, through no specific fault of our own. Does anyone think that we’re happy about that? Does anyone think that we regard Fred Goodwin, Dick Fuld, and the like as anything but villains?
Most of us had no control over the decisions that led to this debacle. And yet here we are, with bills to pay and an evaporated nest egg. Oh, and a salary that hasn’t changed in a dozen years. I reckon that I made around £35 per hour last year, working 70 hour weeks. That’s little better than a skilled tradesman’s wage…except I pay more tax, get less sleep, and have no tea breaks.
So you’ll have to excuse me if I get angry when some unwashed layabout who’s never seen the sun rise starts moaning about the government bailing out the banks with “our” money and threatening to “bash” or “burn” a banker. “Our” money? Oh really? How much tax have these protesters paid over the years, and how much will they pay in the coming years? A damn sight less than the City, is my guess. What’s the tax rate on the dole again?
OK, OK, I know that a lot of protesters will actually be people who hold jobs and pay taxes. But you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to see that there is a cadre of professional moaners and rabble-rousers who are looking to stir up trouble. You know, the “property is theft” crowd who figure that since they can’t be arsed to do any work, anyone who does must have something wrong with them.
And then there’s the eco-nazis who blame all of the world’s ills on climate change. Well, here’s a little newsflash for them. The financial crisis has nothing to do with climate change. And here’s another: the climate has been changing for hundreds of millions of years. To expect the earth’s climate to remain forever constant is an act of breath-taking stupidity.
Has modern industrial society had an impact on the earth’s temperature? Almost certainly. But during that period, human health and life expectancy have risen dramatically, thanks to the advances brought about by modern industrial society and globalization. Where are the protests against that? Why, too, do the eco-freaks campaign against genetically-modified foods, which can enhance crop yields and reduce starvation?
Perhaps they just like a good moan, regardless of the rationale. Whatever. That’s their prerogative. As I said above, the freedom to take to the streets for a moan is a democratic right. But the destruction of property and pogroms against a specific sector of the economy cross the line of what is acceptable. I hope that the marches are peaceful and that the protesters enjoy themselves. But the soap-dodgers should be warned: if they’re looking for trouble, they just might find it.
Update: Bill the Banker Explained
Well, Macro Man thought that Bill the Banker might stir the pot, and he was right.
Bill is, as readers immediately twigged, a fictional banker. He is not, however, a figment of Macro Man’s imagination. Rather, Bill is amalgam of people that he knows in the market, the “silent majority” of anonymous finance workers who have seen both their reputations and their net worth obliterated over the last eighteen months.
While they garner no sympathy from the populace at large, the anger that Bill and his ilk feel is real. Virtually every element of Bill’s rant is a quasi-verbatim quote from one of Macro Man’s acquaintances from some time over the last three months. To be characterized en masse as “leeches” or compared to Nazi prison guards devoid of morality, as was the case in the comments, is unpleasant enough. To confront the prospect of physical violence on the basis of one’s profession is another thing altogether.
While Macro Man may not agree with every sentiment in Bill’s article, he wholeheartedly endorses the right to free expression…as long as it does not damage the person or property of someone else. But freedom of expression goes both ways; while the public has the right to (peaceful) protest, so, too, do the unpopular City workers have the right to have their persons unmolested and their concerns heard.
In the absence of any other forum, Macro Man stepped in to fill the breach, articulating the frustrations he has heard, as they were expressed, to the best of his ability. While it may have been provocative, surely it was no more so than some of the slogans and tactics emanating from the protest camp. In any event, while Macro Man is hardly an impartial observer, he thought he had established some credibility for critical assessment of the finance industry.
He deliberately abstained from commenting to let the chips fall where they may. Suffice to say that the results were…..interesting.
In any event, he trusts that readers of all persuasions will join him in hoping for a peaceful series of demonstrations this week. But if it all kicks off tomorrow, perhaps Bill the Banker will give you an insight to why some in the City choose to fight back.
Regardless, normal service will be resumed tomorrow. Roll on Q2!